« PrécédentContinuer »
Sparta was now leagued on all sides with the enemies of Greece: with the Persians, with Dionysius of Syracuse, and with Macedon. By the destruction of the Olynthian League, she had removed the chief obstacle to the Macedonian power, which was soon to overthrow the freedom of the Greeks.
229. Thebes remained three years in the control of the Lacedæmonian party. But the citizens were discontented, and a company of exiles at Athens were awaiting an opportunity of vengeance. Among them was Pelop ́idas, a noble and wealthy youth, who had already distinguished himself by his patriotism. He was the ardent friend of Epam'inon'das, a Theban of greater age and still more exalted virtue than himself. A plan was now formed among the exiles for the deliverance of Thebes. Pelopidas was its leader; but Epaminondas at first held back, because the execution of the plot required deceit, and the possible shedding of innocent blood. He was a strict Pythagorean; and so pure were his principles, that he was never known to trifle with the truth even in jest, or to sacrifice it for any interest.
B. C. 379.
230. Phyllidas, secretary of the Theban government, was in the plot, and took a leading part in its execution. He invited to supper the two polemarchs, Archias and Philip'pus, with the principal Spartan leaders; and when they were sufficiently stupefied with eating and drinking, he proposed to introduce some Theban ladies. Before these entered, a messenger brought a letter to Archias, and begged his attention, as it contained a matter of serious importance. But the polemarch only thrust the letter under the cushions of his couch, saying, "Serious matters tomorrow!"
Pelopidas and his friends, who had arrived in the city disguised as hunters, now entered the banquet-room in the long white veils and festive garb of women. They were loudly welcomed by the half-drunken guests, and dispersed themselves with apparent carelessness among the company; but as one of the Spartan lords attempted to lift the veil of the person who was addressing him, he received a mortal wound. It was the signal for a general attack. Swords were drawn from beneath the silken garments, and no Spartan left the room alive. The prisons were now opened, and five hundred Thebans, who had been immured there for their love of freedom, were added to the armed force of the revolutionists, As day dawned, all citizens who valued liberty were summoned to the marketplace. A joyful assembly was held, the first since the Spartan usurpation. The Lacedæmonians in the citadel were besieged, and their expected reinforcements being cut off, they speedily surrendered.
231. It was now the depth of winter, but when the news arrived at Sparta, instant preparations were made for war. Cleombrotus led an army into Boeotia, and Athens was called to account for having sheltered
the exiles. Unable to enter upon war with Sparta, the Athenians consented to sacrifice their two generals who had rendered the most efficient aid to the Thebans. One was executed, and the other, having fled, was sentenced to banishment. The Thebans feared that they should be left to fight single-handed against Sparta. In order to compel Athens to take part in the war, they bribed Spho'drias, the Spartan general, to invade her territory. He entered Attica in the night and committed various ravages, but retired the next day. The Spartan government disclaimed all knowledge of the affair, and brought Sphodrias to trial for it; but, through the influence of Agesilaus, he was acquitted. Athens immediately made an active alliance with Thebes, and a declaration of war against her ancient rival.
B. C. 378.
B. C. 378-376.
232. A new confederacy was now formed on the plan of that of Delos, including, in its most prosperous period, seventy cities. Athens was the head, but the independence of the members was carefully guarded. A congress at Athens regulated the share of each in the general expenses. The fortifications of Piræus were completed, new ships of war were built, and all the allies hastened forward their contingents of troops. In Thebes, the Sacred Band was formed a heavy-armed battalion, consisting of three hundred chosen citizens of the noblest families, bound to each other by ties of the closest friendship. Though Pelopidas was bootarch, Epaminondas had the most prominent share in the drill and discipline of the troops. During two summers the army of Agesilaus invaded the country, and carried its depredations to the very gates of Thebes. The third year the Thebans held the passes of Mount Citharon, and kept out the invaders. The Spartans were no longer successful at sea. They were thoroughly defeated off Naxos by the Athenians, who thus regained their maritime empire in the East; while, in the western seas, Corcyra, Cephallenia, and the neighboring tribes on the mainland joined the Athenian alliance. The Thebans were no less victorious on land. During the two years that they were free from Spartan invasion, most of the Boeotian cities submitted to their control. In 374 B. C., all Spartans were expelled, free governments were restored to every city, except Orchomenus and Chæronea, and the Bootian League was revived. The Phocians, who had, twenty years before, invited the Spartans into central Greece, were now the objects of vengeance, and not the less because the treasures of Delphi would be the prize of the victor. But Cleombrotus came to the aid of the Phocians, and the aggression was checked.
B. C. 375.
233. The Athenians had now various reasons for enmity against Thebes, and messengers were sent to Sparta with proposals of peace. They were eagerly accepted; but the inopportune restoration of the Zacynthian exiles
B. C. 374.
by Timotheus, son of Conon, at this crisis, broke off the negotiations, and war was renewed. It was carried on in the western sea, with great expense and no gain to either party; the main object of the Spartans being the conquest of Corcyra, and, of the Athenians, the protection of its independence. At length all parties were weary of war, and a general congress was appointed at Sparta in the spring of 371.
234. PEACE OF CAL'LIAS. * It was agreed that the Spartan garrisons should be withdrawn from every city, and independence secured to all. Athens and her allies signed the treaty separately, but Sparta took the oaths for the whole Lacedæmonián Confederacy. When the Thebans were called upon, Epaminondas refused to sign except for the whole Baotian League, claiming that Thebes was as rightfully the sovereign city of Boeotia, as Sparta of Laconia. He defended his view in a speech of great eloquence; but Agesilaus was violently incensed. Peace was concluded between the other states, but Thebes and Sparta continued at war.
235. The courage of the Thebans seemed to the rest of the Greeks like madness, and it was believed that a very few weeks would see them crushed by the overwhelming power of Sparta. But Thebes now possessed the greatest general whom Greece ever produced. Knowing his own power, and the value of those new tactics which were destined to supersede the Spartan system, he revived the drooping confidence of his countrymen, reasoned down their evil omens or invented good ones, and by his own greatness of soul sustained the spirit of a whole nation.
B. C. 371.
236. BATTLE OF LEUC'TRA. Cleombrotus, the Spartan, was already in Phocis with a considerable army. He began with energy by seizing Creusis, on the Crissæan Gulf, with twelve Theban vessels which lay in the harbor, thus providing at once a base of supplies and a line of retreat. He then marched along the Gulf of Corinth into Boeotia, and encamped upon the plains of Leuctra. Three of the seven bootarchs were so much alarmed as to propose retreating upon Thebes, and sending their wives and children for safety to Athens; but their plan was overruled. Epaminondas and Pelopidas were alert and cheerful. Though outnumbered by the Spartans, they so arranged their forces as to be always superior at the actual point of contact, instead of engaging all at once, which had been the uniform method in Grecian warfare. The Theban left was a dense column, fifty deep, led by the Sacred Band. This was hurled upon the Lacedæmonian right, which contained their choicest troops, led by Cleombrotus himself; while the Theban center and right, facing the Spartan allies, were kept out of action. The onset of
So called from one of the Athenian envoys, who, being hereditary proxenus of Sparta (a term nearly corresponding to our modern consul), had a leading part in the negotiation. His personal character was worthless, and his influence slight.
the Thebans was irresistible. Never had more furious fighting been seen on any Grecian battle-field. The Spartans maintained their ancient virtue; but Cleombrotus was mortally wounded, his whole division were driven to their camp, and the victory of the Thebans was complete. The allies of the Spartans, many of whom were present more through fear than choice, scarcely regretted the result of the battle.
At Sparta the fatal news was not permitted to interrupt the festival then in progress. All signs of mourning were forbidden, except on the part of those whose relatives had survived the defeat. The disaster was, nevertheless, the greatest that had ever befallen Sparta. Her influence was destroyed, even over the Peloponnesian cities. Her dependencies north of the Corinthian Gulf were divided between the Thebans and Jason, tyrant of Pheræ, in Thessaly, a man of singular talent and unbounded ambition, who aimed at the sovereignty of all Greece. The Thebans had courted his alliance, but they began to be alarmed by the extent of his projects, and all Greece was relieved when he was assassinated in 370. The Spartan sovereignty, which had lasted thirty-four years since the battle of ÆgosPotami, now gave way to the THEBAN SUPREMACY (B. C. 371-362).
237. The Mantineans seized the occasion to revenge their former wrongs, and besought the aid of Epaminondas. He entered Arcadia with an army near the end of the year 370, and was joined by Argives and Eleans, who increased his number to 70,000 men. By the entreaties of his allies, he marched into Laconia, and advanced upon Sparta itself. During all the centuries that the fame of Spartan valor had held Greece and Asia in awe, the Spartan women had never seen an enemy in arms, and the unwalled city was now filled with terror. But the energy of old King Agesilaus was equal to its defense. He repulsed the cavalry of Epaminondas, who retired down the valley of the Eurotas, burning and plundering as he went, and then returned to Arcadia.
238. The main objects of his expedition were yet to be fulfilled. A union of Arcadian towns had already been formed, which Epaminondas wished to organize and strengthen. Lest jealousy should be excited by the choice of any existing place as capital of the league, a new city, called Megalopolis, was built, and peopled by colonists from forty towns. Here a congress of deputies, called the "Ten Thousand," was to be regularly convened; and a standing army of deputies from the various cities was also raised.
239. A still more cherished plan was the restoration of the Messenians. For three hundred years this noble race had been fugitive and exiled, while its lands were in the possession of the Lacedæmonians. The exiles were now recalled, by the letters of Epaminondas, from the shores of Italy, Sicily, Africa, and Asia, and eagerly sprang to arms for the recovery of their ancient seats. The citadel of Ithome was fortified anew, and the
town of Messe'ne, which arose upon the western slope of the mountain, was protected by strong walls. The Messenian territories extended southward to the gulf which bore their name, and northward to Elis and Arcadia.
240. Common jealousy of Thebes now led to a closer alliance between Athens and Sparta. Their forces were united in guarding the mountainpasses of the isthmus, in order to prevent another invasion of the Peloponnesus. Epaminondas, however, broke their line by defeat
B. C. 369.
ing a Spartan division, and Sicyon deserted the Spartan for the Theban alliance. The Thebans were, in their turn, defeated in an attack upon Corinth, and their enemies were strengthened by a squadron which arrived at Lechæum, from Dionysius of Syracuse, bearing two thousand auxiliaries from Gaul and Spain.
B. C. 368.
41. THE TEARLESS BATTLE. The Arcadians, meanwhile, rejoicing in their newly acquired power, became ambitious to share the sovereignty with Thebes, as Athens did with Sparta. Under their leader, Lycome'des, who had first proposed the league, they gained several advantages in the west, and completed the overthrow of the Spartan power in the Messenian part of the peninsula. In a later enterprise, they were routed, however, with great slaughter by the Spartans, who lost not a man in the engagement, and gave it, therefore, the name of the "Tearless Battle." The Thebans did not mourn this defeat of their allies, which had the effect of curbing their pride, and showing their need of protection from the sovereign state.
The same year the Thebans, under Pelopidas, organized a league among the cities of Thessaly, and formed an alliance with Macedonia. Among the hostages sent from the Macedonian court was the young prince, Philip, son of Amyntas, now fifteen years of age, who was destined to act an important part in the later history of Greece.
242. In the years 367 and 366, the Thebans obtained from the Persian king that sanction of their power which the peace of Antalcidas had rendered necessary, or, at least, customary in Greece. Artaxerxes recognized the Hellenic supremacy of Thebes, and the independence of Messene and Amphip'olis; decided a dispute between the Arcadians and Eleans in favor of the latter, and commanded Athens to reduce her navy to a peace footing. This royal rescript naturally provoked a violent. opposition among the states of Greece; and when Pelopidas visited Thessaly to obtain compliance with its terms, he was seized and imprisoned by Alexander of Phere. The Thebans instantly sent a force to recover or avenge their ambassador. But, unhappily, Epaminondas was now degraded from command; the army was defeated, and barely escaped total destruction. The great general was serving as a private in the ranks; he was called by his comrades to be their leader, and conducted them A. H.-13.